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2011 NFL Mock Draft, SBNBA Version: 31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ben Ijalana, Villanova Wildcats

31. Pittsburgh Steelers - Ben Ijalana, Villanova Wildcats

The Steelers need to protect Ben Roethlisberger (not just from Richard Seymour's right straight), and they can no longer ignore this need. It's been a need for a couple seasons now, but he did take a beating last year. There's much to be said about Roethlisberger's ability to move in the pocket and outside of it to avoid contact and extend the play. He's very, very good at it, and up to this point, it has served them very well, but not well enough.

I'm sure Roethlisberger would prefer that he get some better protection, and he'll get it at this point. Ijalana has been rated as a second rounder, but he's been sneaking up draft boards. The Steelers need both a tackle and a guard, but they go with the tackle here because he's still got the potential to be an elite guy at the NFL level. There will still be guards available in the second round and potentially even the third.

Ijalana could come in and play right tackle immediately, but he has the potential to be a left tackle in the NFL. He might be one of the few tackles left with solid potential to play left from the get-go, but I think Pittsburgh will put him right there on the right side of the line and let him get his experience for a year, and if they need to, they'll slot him over. Danny Watkins was a serious consideration here.